TEU’s Taua Roimata Kirikiri (Ngāti Rākaipāka [Ngāti Kahungunu], Ngāti Konohi, Te Whānau-a-Apanui, Ngāi Tahu whānui) discusses the significance of maramataka and the revitalisation of lunar and stellar knowledge within te ao Māori.
In recent years in Aotearoa there has been a revitalisation of observing maramataka (Māori lunar calendar), and a greater acknowledgement of indigenous time and calendars around the world. These traditions apply not only to when and what we plant, or go fishing, but also to the influence of the phases of the moon on our psyche.
These considerations, and the observance of maramataka were normal in pre-colonial Aotearoa, and we are now beginning to put back into place the knowledge that was increasingly eroded by colonisation. The observing of maramataka, Matariki, and Puanga are all important components of this resurgence.
Growing up, my whānau didn’t observe Matariki, as such. It wasn’t celebrated as it is today, and instead, the focus of my whānau was on the maramataka. We lived off the land and our grandmother, uncle, cousins, and older whānau lived by maramataka for directing and informing the best time to prepare, grow and harvest plants, and the best time to go fishing. We had two calendars operating, with the Gregorian referred to alongside the maramataka, our main calendar, which we used throughout the entire year.
The month according to maramataka, was the lunar calendar month. There was a name for each day of the phases of the moon, so we would either consult it, or many of my whānau just knew it because they referred to it all year round. My grandmother would be preparing her kūmara, and we would help lay-out pārekereke (seedling bed), which was required to ensure a good crop from healthy plants.
For me, an early memory of maramataka were these preparations, and knowing of the handwritten maramataka on the wall of my grandmother’s house, with all the phases of the moon named, next to the kitchen table and always visible when we ate together. There were regular conversations from the dinner table about the phases of the moon, and it was just a regular occurrence, and normal part of our everyday lives as Matariki, Puanga, and maramataka are our lunar and our kauwae-runga (astronomical knowledge).
The resurgence of knowledge and interest in maramataka is unstoppable and vitally important to Māori. It’s important that we protect these traditions, even as we move to officially commemorate and celebrate Matariki from next year to ensure the true meaning and significance of Matariki and maramataka is not lost or overwhelmed by commercialism.